Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council

Meeting Minutes
Thursday August 17, 2006
Stagecoach Hotel, Sage Room
Beatty, Nevada

Resource Advisory Council members present and category represented:
Dr. Colleen Beck Archeology/Historic
Don "Skip" Canfield State Agency Representative
Dr. John E. Hiatt Wildlife
Claire Toomey Permitted Recreation
Kenny Anderson Native American
Gracian Uhalde Ranching/Grazing
John Weisser Dispersed Recreation
Robert Maichle Environment
Doug "Stretch" Baker Transportation/R.O.W.
Joni Eastley Elected Official
Dr. Steve Parker Academic/UNLV

Resource Advisory Council members absent:
Mark N. Ioli Mineral Development
Stephen Mellington Public at Large (Chair)
Billie Young Wild Horse & Burro

Bureau of Land Management representatives present:
Juan Palma BLM Las Vegas Field Office Manager
Hillerie Patton BLM Las Vegas Field Office PAO
Stephanie Connolly BLM Ely Field Office Acting Manager
Bill Fisher BLM Tonopah Field Station Assistant Field Manger
Karen Eller BLM Tonopah Field Station PAO
Jim Perkins BLM Las Vegas Field Office
Jeff Steinmetz BLM Las Vegas Field Office
Gayle Marrs-Smith BLM Las Vegas Field Office

Public attendees: None

A copy of each attachment is listed in the text of or at the end of these minutes and is also on file with the official copy of the minutes in the Las Vegas Field Office of the BLM. Persons desiring to review said minutes should contact Hillerie C. Patton, public affairs specialist, at (702) 515-5046.

Vice Chairperson, John Hiatt, called the meeting to order at 8:10 a.m.

8:41 a.m. – Housekeeping Issues

Palma announced that visitors from "SNORE" may be present. Toomey added that SNORE is looking for new areas for designation of OHV use. Patton reviewed administrative matters; the next meeting is the Tri-RAC meeting in Reno, NV Nov 2-3, and asked members to think of dates and times of meetings and agenda items for next year’s meetings.

8:30 a.m. – Jim Perkins discussed the South Desert Complex.

Stephanie Connolly asked if a letter had been drafted. Patton stated that it seemed, from the last meeting that Ely had decided to discuss this issue more and then come back and ask for a letter from the RAC. Connolly stated that this needs to be reflected in the minutes. Currently, agreements are to graze only in the non burned areas. In the next month or two, if no agreement is reached, Ely Field Office (EFO) will have to issue a decision. Connolly worked with Troy Grooms on an idea to test the burned area. They have the support of other agencies and the permittees are in agreement with the intense management of their cows. EFO is striving to get the livestock out mid November and be off by March, but if the Desert Tortoise comes out early the livestock will be removed at that time. Uhalde asked who will be the contact person. Connolly said Bill Dunn should be contacted with any questions or concerns. Connolly stated that the primary reason for trying the new ideas is to see the effect that intense grazing along with the moving of livestock has on the invasive grasses (fire fuels). Maichle pointed out that studies need to be done, to see what the outcome might be. He suggested seed bags if trying to reintroduce native grasses. He added that getting it done at the right time of year is very important. Fisher suggested a discussion with San Diego State University because they have experience in trying to rehabilitate desert. Parker asked if grazing insurance was in existence. Uhalde stated that it was.

Maichle cautioned against livestock who are not used to the desert in an area where tortoise are. These cows are not used to working around the burrows, etc. Uhalde added that the short term goal should be to break the fire cycle. Connolly added that some people think that the unburned areas should be grazed, but the flip side to that is that grazing should be used on the burned areas to bring them back and not disturb the unburned areas. EFO is trying to see how this fits together. Hiatt asked if there are processes in place to see that good vegetation data will be obtained on biomass and seed bank. Connolly stated that monitoring is being done and it will be done through cooperating agencies and seasonal workers. Palma asked about the original proposal, he asked for clarification on whether the RAC was being asked for a letter of support. Connolly stated that she felt Ely’s main job was to keep the RAC informed of the situation and getting feedback from the members. Canfield asked how the SNAP process would fall into play and if the four agencies are communicating. Palma stated that the agencies were communicating. Weisser asked what the impact of fire is on the tortoise. Hiatt stated that they tend to survive the fire because they are in burrows. It is after the fire that presents the problem. Joshua trees survive the fires, but the rodents eat the plants because there is no other forage.

A short term solution is asking all of the permittees to meet and discuss this issue.

EFO made a formal request Nevada State Office to conduct a fire review. They made contact with two permittees to participate. Hiatt was concerned about the lack of support and agreement between the agency and permittees on this issue. Uhalde commented that there was not a lot of continuity between the permittees. Connolly stated that if no agreement can be made then EFO will have to make a decision.

Connolly added that the State Office is aware of the Mojave issue. They are also looking across state boundaries for information. SNLPMA Lincoln County put in 6 Mojave projects and giving EFO the potential to look at a seed warehouse some where in the Mojave area. EFO is looking into using other seed warehouses as well. Palma asked if there is a letter that is being asked of this RAC for this issue. Connolly stated two letters are needed- 1. What they are doing despite funding mechanisms and general RAC positions on Mojave issues. 2. Reviewing SNLPMA comments and nominations on where the monies should go. Please look at this and submit your comments. Hiatt stated that the RAC should be actively participating in the process and supports the request for a letter. Uhalde also showed support. Eastley asked which are in the Mojave area and Connolly stated that she will provide copies to the RAC members. Canfield asked if the RAC letter will just propose BLM issues or will it be landscape wide. Hiatt stated it should be landscape wide. Maichle commented that this RAC has a responsibility to SNLPMA. He added that this is a separate issue. That this is using their influence to get funding for this issue. Hiatt stated that the letter should primarily state that this needs the nations’ attention as we move from stable to unstable. Connolly stated that she is asking the RAC to participate in the SNLPMA process separately from these comments. Canfield asked again if the RAC is allowed to support other agencies in their endeavors. Hiatt stated that the Forest Service is part of the RAC so yes. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been "absent" from discussions. Palma asked what needs to be done in a situation when permittees have been burned out. A letter would be fine, but some permittees have begun to solve the problem. Maichle stated that he would like to incorporate allies and get grazers to be a part of the team. Hiatt’s concern for the ¾ of them not signed. Is this a common reason or are there many? Is creating a forage reserve being discussed? Connolly stated that, yes that is being discussed. Fisher discussed the Tonopah Field Station issue of the forage reserve. This was protested by Department of Agriculture, The State of Nevada, Eureka County and the Cattlemen’s Association. The forage bank is a 10 year permit to permittee and permittee would manage that area. Proposing this in a couple of other areas and encountering the same resistance. All of the allotments being proposed for forage bank are vacant allotments. The rationale of the opposition is that this would some how "dilute" the industry. Because the permittee wouldn’t be able to levy that against loans, etc. Connolly asked if the RAC would like that as a future agenda item. Members agreed that this would be a good topic for the agenda. Fisher suggested putting this item on the agenda for next year. Patton put the issue of Forge Bank on the agenda.

Patton pointed out that there needs to be clarification on the letters requested of the RAC. The first would be a letter from the RAC directed to the State Director stating that we need to take action to address the change in the system. The second would be a letter to EFO on round 7 nominations, looking at all nominations and what the RAC proposes to prioritize each nomination (rank each of them) possibly looking at big chunks (areas).

9:00 a.m. – Kevin Oliver gave a presentation on fire in the Southern Mojave area

Fire season has been above average. Fire behavior has also been above average. Creating extreme fire behavior on almost all fires. All of the agencies resources are shared with other agencies. Las Vegas District has fires all year round because of the climate. Currently the fire danger is extreme. Mt. Charleston is of great concern because of the dryness. They have done well in minimizing the acreage burned. Emergency stabilization is making headway on all of the fires from last year.

Eastley asked about the success rate with re-seeding. Oliver said that the data has not been established yet. Eastley asked how they know when and where to reseed as opposed to letting nature take its course. Oliver stated that they use guidance from the management plans. Hiatt stated that some information is available. Cooler temperatures are necessary and roads are necessary for seed dispersal. A brief discussion ensued. Oliver informed members that the Western Great Basin is at national fire preparedness level four. Level five is when all of the resources are not available. With one being quiet, most resources available and five being all resources are being used and therefore not available for use.

Connolly said that of the 360 fires 20 were human caused. A brief discussion ensued regarding fire behavior and reseeding.

Fisher added that there were two fires here in Beatty. The Sawtooth, which was approximately 5,000 acres and the Beatty fire. Dry lightening started the fire and then in the afternoon a storm started, but "let out" and a type-two team came in. Staff is working on ESNR at this time for stabilization for these fires. Hiatt asked what habitat burned. Fisher stated that creosote bush and type three tortoise habitats had burned.

10:00 a.m. – SNLPMA Round 7 Nominations Discussion

Connolly handed out packets on each nomination for Lincoln County. These nominations have not been screened to see if they qualify. Resource Protection (Law Enforcement), Pioche/Castleton and Eagle Valley/Ursine Wildland Urban Interface Projects.

Hiatt suggested working out a timeline in getting comments in. Patton stated that she will find out the time frame for the public comment period on Round 7. Hiatt noted that some not-so-complicated projects are listed with very large price tags. The average person looking at this will be awestruck at the amount of money involved. People may wonder how well the money is being budgeted. A brief discussion ensued. Palma proposed two options: 1. BLM could bring all proposals to the RAC, 2. could look at the fed agencies, 3. could look at all of the proposals including counties, etc. Eastley suggested looking at them at the tri RAC once BLM had them prioritized. Connolly stated that they used the RAC in Round 6 by presenting nominations to them. Connolly then gave the RAC’s input to the sub group. Connolly stated that if the RAC wanted they could do this same process or they could wait and review them after approval. A brief discussion ensued. Members reached a consensus to intervene at a later stage. Members discussed the nomination’s procedures and land sales.

11:35 a.m. –Members recessed for lunch, reconvening at 12:45 p.m.

12:45 p.m. - Hiatt opened the Public Comment period

-Don Wall, Vice President of SNORE stated that they wanted to thank BLM for their ongoing work on ensuring off road racing continues in Southern Nevada. He added that everyone knows that we are losing land at an amazing rate and noted how hard both SNORE and BLM work to keep the off road racing in Nevada.

- Hiatt closed the public comment period at 1:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m. Wendy Seley and Bill Fisher discussed the Beatty Land Sales

Seley reviewed land sale process and guidelines. Fisher pointed out that Amargosa Toad habitat area is here in Beatty. Fisher asked the conservation community to map out exactly where toad habitat is located. That area will be taken out of the sale and remain public land. The sale will provide land for housing for workers. Fisher added that there are also concerns about the Desert Tortoise, but the land sale doesn’t affect them. A brief discussion ensued. Seley stated that the sale date depends on when the Federal Register notice is published. BLM cannot offer land for sale until 60 days after it is published. The land will be sold as one 39.73 acre parcel which is appraised at $205,000.00. This land is water and sewer accessible. Seley added that the public comment period for the direct land sale to the Stagecoach Casino has closed.

1:35 p.m. – Gayle Marrs-Smith presented the Conservation Transfer Agreement

Marrs-Smith explained that there will be two phases; data collection and actual modeling. She stated that studies were done in the 1960’s comparing the Las Vegas valley then and 8,000 years before. Las Vegas wash (wash) is the only area left that is intact in the valley. This wash is the only area in the Great Basin that has this complete of a time frame. Boundaries need to be drawn up, BLM cannot do this alone. A brief discussion ensued. Hiatt pointed out that the most important thing is to raise public awareness of this land. Palma stated that a group of people meet with the BLM quarterly and discuss this issue. Members discussed the issue further.

2:10 p.m. – Palma updated the RAC on the Clark County Wild Horse and Burro Gather

Palma stated that there potentially could be a gather next year. He added that BLM would be leaving 16 horses for the southern part of the NCA. Toomey asked about the fertility control and Palma stated that it was being used in the herds in the Test Site. Fisher added that it has to be added as a part of the gather plan and BLM must analyze whether the use of contraceptive is needed or not. Toomey stated that the horses move in from the wilderness and that is an issue that needs to be addressed. Palma stated that BLM takes the Wild Horse and Burro responsibility very seriously. But they must be in balance with everything that needs to be accounted for.

2:40 p.m. – Palma discussed the Nye County Program of Work

Palma stated that the BLM has sorted out Nye County work, but this issue needs to be tabled to the next meeting. The Sharp family issue has been titled and the Sharp family is now selling it. Eastley stated that BLM was just enforcing the law.

Palma stated that Pahrump is running out of electricity. Valley Electric proposed an alternative to bring power to Pahrump. The alternative is connecting a line from Pahrump to just outside of Indian Springs. Indian Springs wants the line to go south of town. An EA may be needed to move corridor south two miles. Maichle pointed out that it should be a five mile corridor in an area with a road and it should not offend anyone.

3:00 p.m. – Susan Rigby and Bill Fisher gave a presentation on Rhyolite

Susan Rigby gave a brief overview of the happenings at Rhyolite. Eastley asked if the agenda could be amended and the tour be today instead of tomorrow morning. All members agreed.

3:12 p.m. – Field Manager’s Reports

Juan Palma gave the Las Vegas Field Manager’s Report

Hiatt asked about the Logandale Trails Management Plan and Palma stated that it was a work in progress.

Beck asked about the Red Rock Desert Learning Center and Patton explained that the school board had passed a resolution for the school. All avenues are being researched at this time. Palma added that it is about a 95% decision not to construct based on 1. There is no operator to operate the facility, 2. No water to the site, 3. The proposed project will be in deficit and donations would have to be in the amount of $600,000 and 4. The cost of the utilities would have to be passed on to the kids. Members discussed this topic. Hiatt asked for an update on the Gold Butte project. Palma stated that the roads issue is being worked on currently. The roads to be left open are being identified

Stephanie Connolly gave the Ely Field Office Manager’s Report

Connolly added that the restoration project is going very well and it has grown to involve multiple agencies. The resource management plan will be another six months before it is finished. Wind energy is still in the study phase on all three projects. Palma added that the Table Mountain issue is on the table due to radar interference. A brief discussion ensued regarding the EFO issues.

Bill Fisher gave the Battle Mountain District Report

Fisher explained that the Timbisha have been involved in the allotment since 2004. The last meeting was with the applicants only. There has been some confusion on who the council consists of and who the contact person is. The Beatty rangeland health assessment will go out in September with the Environmental Assessment to follow one month later. There are two Wild Horse and Burro gathers scheduled for September and December. Gold Hill project is approximately 11 miles away from Round Mountain Gold Corporation (RMGC). One EIS will be done for both projects. RMGC will fund a position to support these projects. Hiatt asked if they do dewatering and Bill stated that they do decrease the water table.

4:17 p.m. – Adjourn

- There being no further business, Hiatt adjourned the meeting at 4:17 p.m. -

APPROVED BY:  John Hiatt, Vice Chair, Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council
January 12, 2007.

- Minutes provided by Karen Eller, BLM Tonopah Field Station public affairs specialist -